St. Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs: the oldest cemetery of Salzburg

The Petersfriedhof, or St. Peter’s Cemetery, is the oldest Christian graveyard in Salzburg, Austria, dating back to 1627. It is a worthy attraction in itself, but many visitors come here to see the place where the Von Trapp family hid out in The Sound of Music.

St. Peter's Cemetery

St. Peter’s Cemetery is one of Salzburg’s most popular tourist attractions.

Closed in 1878, the site decayed until in 1930 the monks of St. Peter’s successfully urged for the admission of new burials.

History

Its origins date back to about 700, when the adjacent St. Peter’s Abbey (Stift St. Peter) was established by Saint Rupert of Salzburg. The abbey’s cemetery, probably at the site of an even earlier burial place, was first mentioned in an 1139 deed, the oldest tombstone dates to 1288.

Catacombs

Carved into the rock of the Festungsberg are catacombs that may stem from the Early Christian days of Severinus of Noricum during theMigration Period. They include two chapels: The Maximuskapelle and the Gertraudenkapelle, consecrated in 1178 under the Salzburg Archbishop Conrad of Wittelsbach and dedicated to the assassinated Archbishop Thomas Becket of Canterbury.

A second chapel, The Margarethenkapelle (Margaret Chapel), (re-)built in 1491, occupies a cite in the center of the cemetery.

What to See at St. Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs

Sheltered by the Mönchsberg and enclosed by elegant wrought-iron fences, the cemetery consists primarily of Baroque porticoes housing chapels of Salzburg’s old wealthy families. Many of the aristocratic families of Salzburg lie buried here, along with many other notable figures.

The graves are lovingly tended by Salzburg families, decorated with candles, fir branches, and flowers. Pansies are the most popular flower, because their name means «thoughts.»

In Crypt XXXI is the grave of Santino Solari, architect of the cathedral. Crypt XXXIX contains the tomb of Sigmund Haffner, a patron of Mozart. And Crypt LIV, by the catacombs, contains the remains of Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, an exceptionally gifted musician herself. The same crypt has the body of Joseph Haydn’s younger brother, Michael (his head is in an urn stored in St. Peter’s Church).

The cemetery includes two notable chapels: the Romanesque Chapel of the Holy Cross and the 15th-century St. Margaret’s Chapel.

The fascinating Christian catacombs carved in the rockface above the church cemetery are worth a look as well. For a small admission fee, visitors can climb a steep set of stone-carved stairs and view several rooms with altars, faded murals, and inscriptions.

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